Chapter Six – The Great Outdoors
Uncle Archie had taken to ignoring me already. He hadn’t said a word to me for two days as I alternated between lying in bed watching DVDs and sitting up to play games in my pyjamas. On occasion, I would get up and make a lightning raid on the kitchen for such delicacies as bread sandwiches (two slices together, no spread, no filling) or digestive biscuits, my uncle’s one concession to sweetness, a decadent treat compared to the rest of the cupboards and refrigerator stuffed with pasta, rice, potatoes, bran flakes and fish.
When it was dinner time, he would knock at my door but I refused to acknowledge him. He would knock twice before silently shuffling back downstairs for his plate of kippers or whatever. The kitchen always smelt of fish; I’d always disliked the stuff, now I fucking loathed it.
With one more day of suspension left to serve and then the whole weekend to endure before my next day at school, I finally grew tired of being depressed. I’d completed all my games and seen every episode of ‘Peep Show’ twice or more. Michael Parkinson came to see me as was becoming his habit, sitting his big ginger bum down next to my head and swishing his tail in front of my eyes. I sat up and shooed him off the bed.
He hopped down to the floor and ran across to the window. I watched him as he leapt up to the windowsill with agility that should not have been possible for such a fat old beast, but he made it look easy. He began to paw at the catch. As I stood and opened the window to let him out, he looked me in the eye, sizing me up before he jumped from the sill to the flat roof some eight feet beneath. He looked back up and caught my eye before disappearing down into the garden below. I felt as though that fat old cat had just called me a pussy.
I began to dress, driven on by an irrational anger at Michael Parkinson. How dare he be so cocky, so damned care-free? I’d find him and kick him up his flabby ginger ass, teach him a lesson he’d never forget! I threw on my old red hoody and jeans and set off down the stairs. Uncle Archie was out, probably on the boat. I didn’t care. I kind of hoped he’d drowned.
I went out the back door, leaving it open behind me and searched the garden for Michael Parkinson, between the bushes and beneath the hedges, up the trees and under the benches. He was nowhere to be seen. I sat down in the chair beneath the old oak tree, looking around the place. It was a bit wild, but a nice size, perfect for a game of hide and seek. It was a shame that that was a game for babies. Now laser tag on the other hand, that was a game for men. We’d had a pretty decent game or two back in Bristol in the playground on the estate. I still had two guns tucked under my bed. Unfortunately, that was currently one gun too many for my friendship group, and I didn’t fancy running around in circles, shooting myself in the head. Not yet anyway.
Suddenly, a scraping sound behind me made me turn my head. It was Michael Parkinson, standing atop the fence amongst the ivy. As he caught my eye, he turned, waved his ass at me, meowed and leapt down and out into the street behind the house. I picked up a stick and threw it over the fence after him. He’d done it again, that Garfield-looking prick! I ran to the gate in the corner of the garden, threw open the rusted latch and set off down the street just as Michael Parkinson nonchalantly turned the corner at the far end.
Around the corner lay a problem. The street split into three narrow cobbled lanes, each one maybe six feet across, one heading up hill, one straight along and one sloping down towards the harbour. Remembering the weird old Scottish song I took the low road, although I hoped I wouldn’t have to get to Scotland before I found Michael Parkinson.
The narrow lane was enclosed by terraced cottages on both sides, places painted pastel shades with low doors, subdued blues with hints of pink and the odd glint of green like a retirement complex for aging houses, crowding together to get a glimpse of the new visitor. A few had fairies mounted by the doorbells and most sported net curtains to protect the modesty of their nether regions from the gawping holidaymaker. They had names like An Dyji, Chi Lowen and Mulligatawny, bursting with Cornish pride and strangely placed y’s and w’s. I felt every curtain twitcher in town convulsing at the nets at my sudden appearance. It was, however, undeniably pretty.
Michael Parkinson had disappeared. I walked the lanes to make sure, but he had disappeared like a fat ginger ninja in a puff of fishy smelling smoke. There was not a soul to be seen in the lanes, which was good as I tripped on the cobbles and swore loudly as I hit my funny bone on an inconveniently positioned gnome. It was fucking hilarious. With my quarry gone, I walked down towards the harbour realising all I had seen of Polpollo to date was what little of it lay outside Uncle Archie’s windows and between his place and school.
Now I’m not usually one for scenery, landscape paintings and that sort of shit, but I felt a strange calm come over me as I sat on a bollard and watched the waves lapping at the entrance to the harbour, dirty looking brown water washing over green algae-stained rocks.
There were several small sail boats, certainly not grand enough to call yachts, tethered alongside a couple larger fishing vessels and several small wooden rowing boats in the harbour itself. Here, seagulls swooped down at fallen chips near the bin, flashing white against the grey English summertime sky, cawing madly and wheeling away in the wind.
Two men were working on a boat on the far side of the harbour, hammering and sawing timber. Being nosy and a little bit bored, I walked around towards them, tapping a beat on the rusted railings at the harbours edge.
As I approached them, I heard the tinny sound of cheap radio speakers blaring out a fuzzy sea shanty like something from a clichéd ITV drama serial. But here they were, two men in coarse jumpers and corduroy working on a boat, relishing the stereotype. Perhaps they knew how ridiculous they were, perhaps this was just the way they did things here in Polpollo, people fallen straight out of postcards into the real world. I leant against the railings and watched them work from the corner of my eye. Perhaps they just didn’t care what people like me thought.
People like me. That’s a strange thought. Who exactly was I? Greg Wright, male, 15 years old. Was my age or sex really the defining aspect of my character? Was I just as two dimensional as the postcard people I had just mocked?
I resolved to stop asking myself rhetorical questions as I’m sure that, not talking to yourself, is truly the first sign of madness. I walked slowly back up the cobbled lane to Uncle Archie’s place. Polpollo was not as busy, as “happening” as Bristol, but it was peaceful, sort of soothing in a way. If only Uncle Archie wasn’t such an asshole and my friends were here, I could almost relax.
As I turned the final corner, almost inevitably, I caught a flash of orange tail disappearing back over the fence, flicking my way like a feline middle finger. So that was the how it was; Michael Parkinson 1, Greg Wright 0. I aimed a kick at him as I climbed the stairs but narrowly missed, and he had his revenge that night as I was rudely awoken by claws padding playfully at my face, his eyes glinting green evil in the dark. I was growing to like the old bastard.